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Esther McVey misled MPs over universal credit, says watchdog

Esther McVey has been accused by the government’s spending watchdog of knowingly lying to parliament, in an apparent breach of the ministerial code.

The head of the watchdog has taken the highly unusual step of publicly rebuking the work and pensions secretary about her response to its critical report on the implementation of universal credit.

Sir Amyas Morse told the minister she had misinterpreted a report by the National Audit Office into universal credit to make it look as if the new welfare system was working well. It was the first time Morse had released personal correspondence with a minister, and highlighted the tension between the Department for Work and Pensions and the NAO over McVey’s statements.

McVey should not have claimed universal credit was being rolled out too slowly when the NAO had said the DWP should ensure it was working properly before transferring any more people on to it from previous benefits, she was told.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “This is a very serious matter. She [McVey] sought to rubbish the NAO report, rather than respond to its findings, which were damning of her government’s flagship social security policy, even though her own department had agreed the report prior to its publication.

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